Creamy tomato spaghetti gets an incredible upgrade with the addition of crispy pan fried herby chickpeas! You’ll love the contrast of the sweet cherry tomato cream sauce against the smoky, herby chickpeas in this vegetarian pasta dinner, a similar effect to toasted breadcrumbs but with protein!
This recipe was inspired by the concept of adding fried breadcrumbs as a pasta topping, only instead of adding more wheat to an already wheat heavy dish – we add protein! In the form of chickpeas. We get them crispy and heavily seasoned with herbs and spices, and they are the perfect accompaniment to a sweet creamy sauce.
This is a big, hearty and filling meal which helps you eat more of the things you feel like you should eat more of (beans!) while keeping you firmly in your comfort zone (pasta!)
The Cherry Tomato Cream Cheese Sauce (+ other options)
This is a simple sauce, made in about 15 minutes, with fresh cherry tomatoes, herbs, cheese and cream cheese.
It’s chunky and rustic and just so creamy.
You can swap in a ready made creamy tomato sauce if that is your wish, which would be undeniably easier for a weeknight dinner.
The Fried Chickpeas
We rinse and drain a can of chickpeas and fry it gently in a frying pan. What we achieve is similar to roasted chickpeas, but quicker, and we avoid turning on the oven.
I’ve gone for my fave mix of spices: Italian herb blend, fennel seeds, sage and smoked paprika. This mix is sort of reminiscent of Italian sausage so I always feel like it fits into pasta dishes very well. We also add lemon zest to the chickpeas when they are finished cooking for a fresh pop of flavor.
Recipe Tips and Variations
- We already discussed that this would be so quick and easy with a ready made creamy tomato sauce, but you could also consider cutting down on your pans by making the chickpeas to go with my Parma Rosa One Pot Pasta. You would just make the chickpeas once the pasta was done cooking, letting it sit for 5 minutes while you cook them.
- Make it vegan by using a recipe for a vegan cream sauce.
- An easy way to bring some extra nutrition to the table is to add baby spinach to the sauce. You would add it just before adding the pasta, mixing it in and letting it wilt. I actually tested it several times with spinach but I decided not to make it a core ingredient. The added texture of the spinach leaves does sort of distract from the lovely creaminess and crispiness of the sauce and chickpeas, so I do prefer it without the spinach, but it feels wrong to advise against adding spinach to something so please do so if you wish.
- Don’t hesitate to try this with butter beans! They fry really nicely too.
More With Spaghetti
How to handle leftovers
This makes a big, filling batch and you may have leftovers.
It’s not perfect when reheated. The sauce gets extra thick, the chickpeas become soft and sad, but it’s still a tasty lunch! I’d simply mix the chickpeas in with the sauce and add some water before microwaving to try to get some silkiness back into the pasta.
Spaghetti with Crispy Chickpeas
- 350 g (12 oz) spaghetti
- 450 g (3 cups) cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 small red onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 tsp Italian herb mix
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 80 g (⅓ cup) cream cheese, full fat
- 80 g (¾ cup) parmesan, grated, plus more for topping
- 1 bunch basil, chopped
- 400 g (14 oz) can of chickpeas, drained
- 2 tsp fennel seeds
- 2 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp dried sage
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- squeeze of lemon juice, for serving
We'll make the sauce first.
- Saute the onion in a little olive oil until soft.1 small red onion
- Add the garlic, Italian seasoning, cherry tomatoes and balsamic vinegar to the pan. Cook until the tomatoes are starting to release their juices and break down. Add salt and pepper to taste.450 g cherry tomatoes, 4 cloves garlic, 2 tsp Italian herb mix, 1 tsp balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper
- Add the cream cheese and parmesan to the pan, and allow to melt in and form a sauce. It will seem thick – this is fine – we will add pasta cooking water later if we need to.80 g cream cheese, 80 g parmesan
- Remove from the heat, cover and get the pasta cooking.350 g spaghetti
While the pasta is cooking, we will make the chickpeas.
- Heat a layer of olive oil over a low-medium heat in a frying pan. Add the chickpeas and allow to sit for a few minutes undisturbed, until they are lightly browned on the bottom.400 g can of chickpeas
- Then use a spatula to mix them up, adding the fennel seeds, sage, smoked paprika and Italian seasoning. Cook just until the spices are all fragrant, then turn the heat off and mix the lemon zest through.2 tsp fennel seeds, 2 tsp Italian seasoning, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp dried sage, Zest of 1/2 lemon
- Pour the chickpeas into a bowl until it's time to serve.
Once the spaghetti is cooked, it's go time!
- Drain the spaghetti when it's ready, reserving a mug of cooking water first. Toss the spaghetti with the cherry tomato sauce and basil, and use a few splashes of the cooking water if needed to loosen the sauce up, until the pasta is well coated.1 bunch basil
- Serve the spaghetti into bowls and top with the chickpeas, a squeeze of lemon juice and some extra cheese if desired.squeeze of lemon juice